There are a number of computer programs which allow you to enter your family trees and produce reports and even books from the data you enter. I started out with whichever version of Family Tree Maker (FTM)was available in 2002, and that rather marked my beginning as a serious genealogist. I’ve stuck with the program over the years and while it has its drawbacks, it’s shown mostly steady improvement and I’m not unhappy with it. I’d be happy to hear from anyone who uses another program as to what advantages it might have, but I probably won’t change at this point in time.
One nice thing Family Tree Maker has is that it will do automatic searching on Ancestry.com, to which I have a complete subscription, which makes things like the census searches I refer to in the previous post as simple as a couple of mouse clicks. For those who aren’t familiar with FTM, it does searching in the background and when it has hits on the people you’re working on, it will display a green leaf for that person which you can click on and what it’s found will appear. It will include things like censuses, military records, public records, links to Obituaries, etc. If you don’t see a census, for instance, that you feel should be there, you can also click for a new search, which will produce lots of possible hits which weren’t likely enough to show on the first page. I think FTM is set up to show up to 8 record hits and 8 family tree hits when you click on a leaf. But a new search can have hundreds or thousand’s of hits to search through. I normally only go a few pages deep in new searches as there are easier ways of finding a missing record, which I’ll go into in future posts here.
When I first got FTM, it was linked to Genealogy.com, which I subscribed to at the time. The more recent versions link to Ancestry.com as a default, though it also allows you to search on rootsweb, Google and other search engines. Now ancestry.com does have a goodly number of free databases, but a lot of the best ones are only available for paying subscribers. They do have free periods available now and again, particularly during holiday times, so if you don’t want to or can’t afford to subscribe, you might want to look for the freebies and plan to go searching. Many people, myself included, are willing to help people by doing look-ups, but it’s often a slow process, which is one of the reasons I’d rather pay the money for a subscription. In the long run, the time saved is worth more to me than the cost of the subscription.